Adam and I have always been fascinated with and loved the movie, The Thing by John Carpenter. What we especially loved about it was the isolated feeling of the movie, the distrust between characters, the paranoia that creeps in and the ultimate scenarios that play out throughout the film to ferret out who is a “Thing” and who isn’t. It really ratchets up the tension in the film.
So with this in mind, I felt compelled to write down and share our experience with, or I should say our near-experience with the making of what was to be a prequel of sorts, but with what ended up having an identical title as the original John Carpenter film, (so as to confuse the audience even more; is it a prequel or is it a remake?!?) ultimately released to theaters in 2011.
Now for some background, The Thing (1982) is already a remake itself, of The Thing From Another World (1951), which was a subject of a previous post of mine. John Carpenter had the screenplay written by Burt Lancaster’s son Bill Lancaster. ( A little trivia about their relationship is shared in my post regarding The Flame and the Arrow where I mention another one of Bill’s scripts, The Bad News Bears where reportedly the Walter Matthew character is based on Burt.)
Anyway, the film was released with some real nifty marketing posters by a young Drew Struzan who would gain fame with the Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter posters he would paint later. It had some strong competition that year, but really grew an audience on video and my brother and I loved it right away and to this day I think it’s the best horror film ever made.
(Original Drew Struzan Concept For the Poster 1982)
So skip forward a couple of decades and Adam and I have written several screenplays by this time, written several book to script adaptations, and made a few films and even won an Emmy; generally seeing a spark of success which is very fleeting in Hollywood. Overall, feeling pretty good, getting our feet wet and having fun. In 2008, a company convinces Universal to let them produce a sequel to The Thing and posts in the trades a search for pitches and treatments for the production.
I have to admit, we got very excited about putting together a pitch for submission to see if we could possibly convince them to let us write the script. We do a lot of research when we do a script and this treatment was no different. We researched the location, the original film and story it’s based on and elements we wanted to put in our “prequel”. Our idea was pretty similar to what was eventually put onscreen when it comes to general plot. We loved the idea of telling the story of what happened at the original Norwegian Station that was a catalyst for bringing the “Thing” to Kurt Russell’s movie in the beginning. We also were excited to be able to make it possible to bridge the first film with a “third” film by providing a way for the “Thing” to hit the mainland at the end of our treatment.
We quickly outlined what we loved about the Carpenter movie; the isolation, the desperation, the paranoia, the suspicions and key scenarios playing out pitting different groups of people against each other, in this case the different nationalities that were at work within our version. I think the key thing that the new version got wrong was having a woman in the mix, I just didn’t think that worked and if we wanted to stay within the confines of the Carpenter version, we decided to keep it an all male cast.
Anyway, I’m going to let you choose for yourselves, if you think our version would have made for a fantastic companion to the Carpenter film, as I think it does. I’m going to print it here in it’s entirety. Now, just for history’s sake, you know up front they didn’t pick ours. We’re not even sure if we were in the running as we were never notified and none of our real elements seemed to make it into the film they ultimately made. Right or wrong they went on to make the film they decided would do best, but ultimately I think they made another mistake by naming it the same name as the Carpenter film. They should have added, The Thing: Exodus or something.
The Thing Prequel (Treatment by Adam Montierth and Donovan Montierth, All Rights Reserved 2008-2020)
ANTARCTICA – 1982
On a routine reconnaissance mission under the Ronne Ice Shelf, HMS VALIANT, a British Nuclear Submarine discovers an anomaly of dense mass hidden under the ice in the Antarctic. CAPTAIN JAMES MUNRO, a veteran of the British Fleet is notified as he feeds his pet mice. The Sub receives orders to investigate.
They drift along the Bentley Subglacial Trench at the lowest point of Antarctica and find a place thin enough for them to break through the ice and exit through the conning tower. As soon as the sub has settled, LIEUTENANT GILBRETSON, a big bear of a man, stations himself outside the sub and chain-smokes his way through several cigarettes.
A group of five MEN, including Captain James Munro, and Roald Amundsen, a reluctant midshipman recruited as an interpreter, leave Lieutenant Gilbretson, as well as the remaining 122 crew members, and hike five kilometers to the geological research facility owned and operated by the Norwegian Polar Research Establishment with eight current occupants; six NORWEGIAN, one GERMAN and one ITALIAN SCIENTISTS.
They convince the scientists to go out and do some core samples where they find a spaceship buried in the ice. Captain Munro, concerned, ventures back to the Sub to receive his orders. Meanwhile, the scientists celebrate the historic discovery with a video camera and prepare to take samples from the spaceship.
Waiting for orders, Amundsen discovers an alien creature, the THING, frozen in the ice not far from the spaceship. Under protest from Amundsen, the scientists cut the block of ice containing the Thing out of the frozen tundra and drag it back to the research station using a snow tractor. KEEGAN GYLDEN, a top Norwegian scientist cuts a thin sample from the skin of The Thing and places it in a plastic container.
Captain Munro returns from the sub with an armed force of ten GUARDS to secure the station and to prevent the release of information regarding the spaceship. His orders are to retain all scientists and to collect all data, samples and specimens from the craft, until a proper research team can be deployed from Great Britain to examine the find properly.
The scientists are prevented from communicating back to their headquarters and are confined to the facility. Mistrust and anger, begin to grow between the two groups. The scientists continue to examine what materials they have from the craft, while the guards keep watch over them from room to room.
In the lab, Keegan removes the thin sample of The Thing and places it carefully on a slide and onto a microscope. He looks into the microscope. The sample appears to be moving. Keegan rubs his eyes and looks back into the lens when a shout is heard from the next room. Keegan and the GERMAN rush out of the room to see what is going on.
It is the room with the block of ice, now empty. ALBIN, one of the Norwegians, is yelling at two guards and pointing to the empty block. As scientists and guards enter the room they become angry over the missing creature. The scientists accuse the guards of stealing the Thing from the ice block and the guards are suspicious of the scientists regarding the missing guard. Tempers rage and the scientists are sent to their sleeping quarters. As they sleep, the Thing, as Williamson, visits several men in their rooms.
Williamson Thing reappears the next morning, seemingly normal, except for slightly odd behavior, Amundsen notices. This doesn’t seem to mend the friction between the two groups but the scientists are allowed to continue their research. The language barrier enhances the groups frustrations as Amundsen is the only one who can speak Norwegian and it becomes increasingly difficult for him to mediate between the scientists and the guards.
Captain Munro takes a few men to go and examine the spacecraft a little closer. They get down to the ship and crack open a hatch in the top and go in. In the dark, they turn on the flashlights and make their way down several corridors. The ship is a frozen disaster. The inside of the ship lay in ruins, wreckage everywhere.
They find what appears to be a corridor with cells. Heavy iron doors with locks on the outside and little glass windows. One of the cells is busted outward, as if something massive broke through the door. A few dead bodies lay scattered about, ripped and frozen. Red ice glints off the floors and walls. Frozen blood everywhere. Captain Munro looks at the familiar body pieces and gasps when he realizes…they’re human.
Back at the lab, the scientists go back to their work. The Italian, complaining about the working conditions, helps GUSTAV, a Norwegian, carry a metal panel from the ship over to a table just as Keegan gets back to his microscope. Keegan yells at the Italian to keep his voice down and peers down into the lenses just as the skin slice of the Thing explodes upward through the microscope and into Keegan’s eye.
Keegan’s head snaps back as the microscope explodes and he falls to the floor, dead. The Italian and Norwegian yell and scramble over to Keegan. Keegan’s eye dangles from the socket and blood pours from his head. A few scientists and guards rush in. Confusion erupts as the Italian attacks the guards thinking they have sabotaged their equipment and killed his colleague. They manage to subdue the Italian and handcuff him and Gustav.
The guards take the Italian and Gustav to another building and lock them into a room by themselves. Williamson stays to watch over them. Keegan’s body is taken to a room and covered with a sheet.
Captain Munro gets back from the spaceship and seems shaken. To try to ease tension, he sends a group of guards back to the Sub. Amundsen pulls him aside to let him know what’s happened. He takes him to view Keegan and then tells him that the men’s nerves are at their breaking points.
Meanwhile, in the room with the two handcuffed men, Williamson paces back and forth nervously as the Italian continues to barrage him with Italian insults. Gustav tries to calm him, but finally Williamson walks over to the Italian and faces him. The Italian shuts up. Just as he thinks Williamson is going to walk away, he opens his mouth and a long tentacle comes out and wraps around the surprised Italian’s head. The Thing starts to assimilate the Italian. Gustav freaks out and starts yelling at the top of his lungs.
A guard runs over from the other building and throws the doors open to find Williamson Thing and the Italian melted together. Gustav runs over to the guard and tries to pull a grenade from the guard’s belt, but Gustav’s handcuffs make it difficult for him to grab the grenade, and in his haste manages to only pull off the pin. When he realizes, he dives outside into the snow, leaving the guard fumbling with his belt to get the grenade off. A few seconds later the building explodes from the inside.
Captain Munro and Amundsen run outside just as the building bursts into a fireball. The remaining scientists and guards filter outside to see the aftermath. The scientists are asking Amundsen what is going on and the guards are all in shock. Confusion erupts as they grill Gustav as to what was happening. Capt. Munro stands in shock looking at the fire, when he notices Keegan Thing standing next to him looking at the fire as well.
Keegan Thing turns to face Captain Munro and reveals his eye still sitting on his cheek, but acting as if everything is normal. The guards and scientists all look at Captain Munro when he yells in surprise. Keegan Thing looks around as if confused as to what is wrong with him. Amundsen points at his face and mentions the eye.
When he does this, recognition sets into Keegan Thing’s face and the eye on his cheek looks up and then juts up from the socket on it’s own accord and begins to look where Keegan Thing’s normal eye looks. At this, a few of the guards pull their guns from their holsters. Keegan Thing’s not getting the response he’s expecting so the eye plunges back into his head, then he looks around again as if to say, “Is this right?”. The men back away.
Finally not getting anywhere, Keegan Thing’s head cracks open into a giant mouth and launches out at Gustav. The Thing quickly overtakes Gustav as he screams in sheer terror. After the guards overcome their surprise they open fire at the Thing. Wounded, it busts through the door and back through the building. The guards chase it into the main room, but the Thing disappears into the ceiling.
Everyone comes running back outside to get answers from Captain Munro. Captain Munro tries to calm everyone down and explains as best as he can that the alien from the spaceship must have been alive but dormant from his frozen state. Everyone, visibly shaken and upset, argues and rambles about what to do. Amundsen tries to interpret as best as he can to the Norwegians and the German. They all decide that they need to track the Thing down. They assign pairs of men, pass out guns and grenades and spread out to look.
Each pair of men take different areas of the station to try and find the Thing. They look down every corridor, store room and work shed, but find nothing. A man yells from the kennels and shots are fired. The guards and the scientists all run to the kennels to find the Thing in the middle of the room assimilating dogs. They open fire on the Thing and it stops moving as if dead.
Albin speaks to Amundsen that they should pull the Thing out to the snow and burn it. Amundsen translates to the group and they all agree. They get the snow tractor and pull the Thing out to the snow and pour fuel on it. As they all stand around watching, Captain Munro lights a match and the Thing goes up in flames.
Confused, the scientists and guards argue about what to do next. Amundsen mediates as best as he can when he realizes that MIKAHIL, one of the Norwegians is speaking perfect English. He asks him how he’s able to speak English fluently. The group gets quiet and stare at Mikhail Thing. The other Norwegians and the German all back up, scared. The guards take their lead and everyone distances themselves from Mikhail Thing and pull out their guns.
Mikhail Thing tries to explain himself, but nobody believes him. They know that he’s the Thing. He gets angry and lashes out at Albin and one of the guards shoots him. Mikhail Thing, jumps at Albin and he falls into the fire, screaming. The men scatter, afraid. The two remaining Norwegians and the German run into the main room, then the German gets into one of the labs by himself and barricades the door.
Amundsen runs out of bullets as they fight Mikhail Thing. He runs inside and finds an axe. Mikhail Thing disappears behind one of the buildings. Inside, the Norwegians step toward Amundsen and he threatens them not knowing who to trust. The guards and Captain Munro come inside and try to calm Amundsen down. He looks at everyone as if they could be the Thing. The guards rush him, trying to get the axe away from him. Amundsen swings the axe and hacks one of the guards in the leg, he goes down on the ground screaming.
HAYES, a guard, grabs Amundsen. Amundsen chop one of Hayes hands off. The hand hits the ground and Hayes holds his amputated arm in pain. The Captain holds the men off and tries to reason with Amundsen that their fight is not with each other but with the creature. Amundsen argues that anyone can be the creature, how can they trust anyone. Captain Munro talks to Amundsen to try and keep him busy while the guards step closer and closer. Finally they all jump on Amundsen and he takes one last swing and embeds the axe in the door.
They hold Amundsen on the floor until they realize that Hayes, who just moments ago got his hand amputated, now has two hands again. He is helping to hold Amundsen down. The guards look at his two hands then look at his third amputated hand on the ground. They look back up at him and Hayes Thing gives them a “what?” look. The amputated hand suddenly grows spider legs out of the fingers and two eyes pop out of the back of the hand. It crawls frantically towards the guard that is laying down bleeding profusely from his leg.
The guards all jump up and pull out their guns and point them at the Hayes Thing on Amundsen. Hayes Thing immediately runs out of the room and the men follow, firing. The man on the ground bleeding, screams as the spider-hand crawls over and embeds itself into his bleeding leg. His leg and the spider-hand fuse together as one, as the Thing attempts to assimilate him. Captain Munro shoots the bleeding man dead. His leg continues to move. Munro drags the body outside and throws it into the fire.
The guards come back and shake their head as if to say the Thing is gone. All men become paranoid and point guns at each other suspecting everyone of being the Thing. The Norwegians try to calm everyone down. They speak as Amundsen translates. They explain that the Thing is learning how to act human. He mentions that they can identify the men that are the Thing, by amputating fingers and seeing who’s grows back.
Reluctantly, everyone agrees. The Norwegians get a surgical kit out and with scalpels cut a finger off of everyone’s hand one by one. They all hold up their bloody hands to show that none have grown back. The remaining men; four guards, two Norwegians, Captain Munro and Amundsen are all human.
The lights and heaters in the facility go out. They run outside to the generators to find Hayes Thing and Mikhail Thing are destroying the generators together. The men open fire at the Things and they both go down as if killed. To make sure they pour fuels on the bodies and burn them in the snow as the Norwegians check the generators.
They explain to Amundsen that they are not repairable and only have a few hours left before everything at the station freezes. A dog comes around the side of the building and everyone realizes that they haven’t killed all of the Thing. The dog runs away. The Norwegians tell Amundsen that they can’t let the Thing live and that they will use the helicopter to find it and kill it. After they are done, they will fly to the nearest city. Captain Munro lets them know that the rest of them are going back to the sub to report what has happened at the station. The Norwegians take their guns and grenades and start the Helicopter. Captain Munro, Amundsen, and the rest raise their amputated hands in a four finger salute, signifying still human. The Norwegians return salute and fly away.
The four remaining guards, Captain Munro and Amundsen head out to the sub. Forgotten and barricaded in the lab, the German cuts his wrists knowing that the cold will kill him soon. Sadly, he cuts his own throat.
The men get back to the sub to find Lieutenant Gilbretson back outside waiting for them. Amundsen notices that he is not chain-smoking and casually asks him about it. Gilbretson looks at him confused. This alarms Amundsen and the guards all pull their guns on Gilbretson. Captain Munro tells Gilbretson that they will have to cut a finger off to prove he is human. Just as a guard goes to cut his finger off, Gilbretson Thing morphs into a GIANT THING and grabs the surprised guard and tears him in half.
The guards open fire on the Giant Thing and Captain Munro and Amundsen throw grenades at it. They find cover just as the grenades go off and open a fissure in the ice. The Giant Thing slips into the water and screams like a banshee. The salt water reacts as acid to the Giant Thing and it foams up and dies horribly, sliding back into the sea.
The three remaining guards, Captain Munro, and Amundsen enter the sub to find it a ghost ship, everyone is gone and the communications boards are destroyed. They are concerned but relieved that they are back aboard and seal the sub back up and make arrangements to go home. Captain Munro leaves one of the guards in charge and goes to get some sleep in his cabin. He finds his mice alright and feeds them. Just as Captain Munro lays down, one of the mice grows tentacles and lashes out.
Amundsen, still unnerved from his ordeal, seals himself in his room and begins to record his fresh thoughts into a tape recorder. Later, he makes his way back to the navigation room. The three guards and Captain Munro are busy at the controls of the sub. They all ignore Amundsen as he enters and they stare at a TV monitor which shows them what is outside the sub.
Amundsen, curious, peers to see what they are looking at. Underwater, outside the sub, they are scanning another spaceship. As the sub moves further, Amundsen sees more ships and what appears to be a spaceship graveyard. Deathly, dark and sinister ghost spaceships lay scattered along the bottom of the sea where they have fallen.
Amundsen looks at Captain Munro and notices that he has all of his fingers again. Smiling, Captain Munro Thing looks directly at Amundsen and begins to explain that he was a captive on a ship headed for another place long ago. He managed to take over the ship, but crashed here in the process.
Amundsen looks at the guards to see if they notice that the Captain is now the Thing. All of the guards turn to face Amundsen. Eerily, they all stare at him along with Captain Munro Thing, and speak to him in perfect unison.
They explain that they sent a distress signal and had wondered what happened to those that followed. They now realize that they landed here and the sea swallowed them up.
After sending the signal, when they couldn’t wait any longer, they exited the spaceship and the weather was too much for them and they froze. Until Amundsen came and found them in the ice. They tell him that now they will survive and take over the planet, thanks to Amundsen.
Amundsen pulls out a gun and points it at Captain Munro Thing, who smiles and says that it won’t be long before he joins them. Instead of shooting Captain Munro Thing, Amundsen quickly aims at the pipes above their heads and a stream of salt water fills the cabin. The Things all scream together and scramble to reach Amundsen and find cover. Amundsen seals them in the room and soon the Things foam up once again in a horrible death, ending Amundsen’s worst nightmare.
Beaten and worn, Amundsen quickly programs the subs computers to the nearest port. Soon the sub reaches land and is seen entering Christchurch, New Zealand harbor.
Off in the small confines of the sub, a small Mouse Thing grows tentacles and lashes out.
Now you can see from our version that we got some inspiration from Ice Station Zebra (1968), as they are also on a mission to get to one of the Science Stations, in that one under the guise of a rescue mission in ours, an exploration mission. This is great because we can now explore more of what’s underneath the ice, we maintain the claustrophobic feeling and now we also have a vehicle that can take the danger to the mainland for the possible 3rd movie.
Anyway, we would have loved to see our version as I think it really had a chance of creating a new Franchise for the film series and I for one would have LOVED to see the possible 3rd movie where the THING hits a population and then really can do some damage. Oh, well, I hope you liked our version too, we can only hope that someone somewhere gets the idea to keep this film series going again.